Indigenous Veld Goats: made for Africa

Eastern Cape farmer Lionel Whittal, who runs a herd of 100 Indigenous Veld Goat ewes on his farm in Bolo in the Eastern Cape says the breed is gaining popularity among goat breeders due to its great mothering abilities, excellent disease resistance and adaptability. Greg Miles reports

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Eastern Cape farmer Lionel Whittal, who runs a herd of 100 Indigenous Veld Goat ewes on his farm in Bolo in the Eastern Cape says the breed is gaining popularity among goat breeders due to its great mothering abilities, excellent disease resistance and adaptability. Greg Miles reports.

The Indigenous Veld Goat (IVG) is known as the beau ideal of South African goats because of its beautiful coat patterns. But under this handsome exterior are some tough, African-bred attributes. “I wanted a goat that had resistance to heartwater, was fertile and could raise twins on the harsh terrain on which we farm,” says Lionel Whittal of Sandilli farm in the Bolo district of the Eastern Cape.

Having farmed with Boer goats before, he knew the risks of the harsh heartwater disease with prodigious populations of the bont tick. His herd’s production at the time had been drastically impaired and heartwater seemed to be a never-ending problem. “With the bont tick giving me untold headaches, a now-retired uncle, Victor Biggs, who farmed on the outskirts of Kei Road, Eastern Cape, introduced me to the Veld Goats,” Lionel explains. “Victor owned the well-known Haddon Nguni Stud and for many years also farmed with fertile, disease- resistant IVGs, after having spent years selecting for naturally resistant animals.

Heartwater-resistant goats
“I bought five ewe goats from him and was amazed at their adaptability and resistance to heartwater,” says. “I also acquired a ram and later another 15 ewes from Victor.” All the goats purchased were the Mbuzi strain. L ionel was impressed with the results. “Not one of the original five goats were affected by heartwater,” Lionel says. “They were so tough that a ewe from the second batch I bought didn’t come home one evening and only returned three days later. I noticed that she had lost a lot of condition as she had obviously contracted heartwater. What impressed me was that she recovered without any treatment. This was the turning point for me, and I decided that this is the breed I want to farm with.”

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Today, he is the Eastern Cape representative for the National IVG Club, which is registering the breed with the Registrar of Animal Improvement for it to be accepted by Studbook as a new breed. ionel’s kapaters (castrated goats) weigh between 20kg and 30kg when marketed at six months. This is the ideal weight for the live trade market where the price never drops below R20 a kilogram. Lionel has regular clients who buy kapaters directly from the farm, and include speculators or Xhosas who buy animals for traditional ceremonies. It’s a strategy that cuts out the middleman and puts the extra profit back into his pocket.
Ewes and rams are sought after by other breeders and can achieve much higher prices than kapaters.

A t the first ever Indigenous Veld Goat sale held in Bloemfontein on 17 February 2007, Lionel sold five ewes for an average of R4 980 and one ram for R5 800. JW Morrison from Bainsvlei in the Free State sold a full-mouth ewe (pregnant with twins) for R23000 and a ram for R19500. Chairperson of the National IVG Club, Schalk van der Walt from Venterstad, sold one heavily pregnant ewe for R20 000.

After farming with these goats for seven years he has never seen their equivalent when it comes to mothering abilities. Finished hides that are tanned and trimmed sell for R450.

Doing the sums
On production figures, Lionel says for a hundred ewes, of which 50% give a single kid and the other 50% twins on the first kidding for the year, the result is 150 kids. On the second kidding (in the same year), if only 50% of the ewes kid, of which 50% produce singles and the other 50% twins, the result is 75 kids. This amounts to 225 kids for the year, minus 25 which are lost to tick-borne diseases and predators. The result is 200 marketable kids at R500 each (not considering that breeding stock will realise much higher prices). Turnover will therefore be R100 000, which equates to a minimum of R1 000 per ewe per year.

Furthermore, Lionel is investigating producing chemical-free organic meat and tanned hides. He has even been approached by US hunters to sell rams as hunting trophies – a similar experience to some Damara breeders. All rams born at Sandilli are kept intact as possible herd sires, and any that contract heartwater are castrated to selectively eliminate animals with lower resistance to diseases.

The young rams start working at six months of age and the young ewes are also early maturing. “Early maturing ewes keep their femininity and I don’t want to see goats that kid after 18 months,” Lionel says. “That is not good enough for me.” Lionel does not dip his goats, and if animals show visible signs of irritation or limping, they are spot-treated with a knapsack sprayer. Spots that need to be treated are usually areas between the hooves, behind the horns and on the udders – all ideal refuges for bont tick and screw worm. Lionel stresses that none of his goats are ever inoculated against diseases such as pasturella or pulpy kidney. The only time veterinary products are administered is when a goat contracts heartwater.
He seldom loses more than 10% of his kidding crop to disease and predators.

Acquire a good sheep dog
As most farmers know, a good fence makes good neighbours. This is particularly true when farming with goats as they are masters of getting through fences. Lionel says it’s important to have a well-trained sheep dog that’s able to penetrate dense bush and to herd the goats to their kraal overnight. He says a good dog is easily the equivalent of four to five workers. As goats can’t simply be shut up over weekends and holidays, a dog is essential as it would otherwise create labour problems.

Recently, a Bolo farmer sold his entire IVG stud as they were becoming too much of a nuisance because they continually crawled through fences and grazed his neighbour’s farm. Therefore, farmers who plan to start farming with goats must consider acquiring a dog. Contact Lionel Whittal on 073 777 6435. |fw

Characteristics of Indigenous Veld Goats
The Mbuzi is a small-frame goat compared with the broader-framed Boer goat. A mature ewe weighs about 40kg to 50kg and has a distinct sloping rump, which facilitates kidding. The udder is small and neat with small teats so that the young can suckle immediately after birth. The front of the head is flat and does not exhibit a roman nose such as the Boer goat, and has well-pigmented skin and hooves to protect it from the harsh African sun. It is not seasonal, but breeds all year round and has a gestation period of six months. It is early-maturing and disease-resistant. “These goats do not get bloat from lucerne and are very seldom dosed. Only the kids are treated for tapeworm,” says goat judge Dr Quinton Campbell.

Origin of the goat
According to Epstein (1973) nomadic black and coloured nations inhabited North Africa hundreds of years ago and could not readily migrate southwards due to the tsetse fly belt stretching along the equator of Africa. Epstein (1971) shows by a schematic map of the tsetse fly distribution in Africa that there is a narrow tsetse-free belt near Lake Victoria and the Ruwenzori Mountains (Uganda), and that coloured nations or Khoikhoi were forced south through this belt by stronger nations during the fifth century AD. They journeyed through the arid west coast and later inhabited areas such as Angola, Namibia and Namaqualand. The Khoikhoi possessed Zebu-type cattle, fat-tailed sheep and dogs. Bachman (1983) confirms Epstein’s theory that the black nations brought a variation of Zebu-type cattle adapted to tropical conditions, thin-tailed sheep, small hairy dogs, and a mixture of short- and long-eared goats. By bartering the Khoikhoi acquired goats and the black people acquired fat-tailed sheep. Barrow (1801) wrote that near the Hartbees River, Northern Cape, he encountered “Namaqua Hottentots who possessed a herd of small, handsome goats that were speckled like the leopard.” Farmers realised that these goats could live on almost any plant material and reproduce under unfavourable conditions. Judge Quinton Campbell says that Eastern Cape farmers acquired short-haired, lop-eared goats to “open up” thorn bush for Angora sheep. Sources: • Epstein, H 1973. Animal Husbandry of the Hottentots. Onderstepoort J Vet Sci Anim Husb 9, 631-666. Epstein, H 1971. The Origin of Domestic Animals in Africa, Vol 1 Dog, Cattle, Buffalo. Revised by IL Mason, African Publishing Corporation. New York, London, Munich. Bachman, M 1983. How Today’s Cattle Originated. Farmer’s Weekly, December 30 1983, pp 16-19. Barrow, J 1801. Travels into the interior of Southern Africa in the years: 1797 and 1798 Part 1. London. Straham Printer’s Street.